Italian Vegetable Stew with Meatballs

Although I’ll confess to being no vegetarian I do have a great love for vegetables. More than any other food group they bestow the colour that brings dishes to life and provide so much of the nutrition that a healthy diet needs.

My husband is trying to go easy on the carbs at the moment so I’m challenged with finding alternatives for the classic carbohydrates that feature in my favourite dishes. Not an easy challenge as I wouldn’t normally say there was an alternative (or one I’d be happy with) for pasta with meatballs or rice with a curry or crusty bread smeared with unsalted butter to mop up juices. My approach to healthy eating is more along the lines of moderation rather than elimination. But I’m happy to help my husband in this brief experiment to see if he can shed a few kilos before we fly off to Italy in a few weeks for a much needed holiday.

Yes, Italy! And let me tell you there will be no eliminating carbs on this holiday. Just let me at that first bowl of pasta!

Getting back to my recipe for today, this vegetable stew was such a surprise. The pasta that would normally accompany meatballs and a tomato sauce was barely missed. I’m not suggesting it is authentically Italian but the title is really just to convey the Italian flavours that I have put into the dish. The meatballs are a wonderful addition but if you’d prefer to keep the dish vegetarian it can more than hold its own as a delicious meal – perhaps served with griddled aubergine slices or some crusty bread. You could even add torn bread pieces to the stew itself – Italians love adding bread to soups and stews.

But for me the meatballs are perfect – and to bind these delicious morsels I used ground almonds instead of breadcrumbs. I was thrilled with the result. And considering it’s mid-winter in New Zealand this dish ticks another box – comforting, satisfying, delicious. Not to mention it smells incredible as it cooks.

Italian Vegetable Stew with Meatballs

Serves 4

Vegetable Stew

IMG_3833

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, chopped into smallish pieces (not too fine though)
  • 1 large carrot, chopped into a 1cm dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 250ml water
  • 400g tin cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 250g green beans, trimmed at either end
  • 3 courgettes, sliced on the diagonal
  • Bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • Freshly grated Parmesan

Method

Add the olive oil to a pre-heated pan. Add the onion and celery and sauté until beginning to soften. Add the carrots and continue to cook until the onion and celery are translucent and the carrots are beginning to soften. Then add the garlic and oregano and sauté for another minute or so.

Add the tomatoes, water and cannellini beans. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and stir well. Bring to a simmer and simmer gently, lid off, for 30 minutes. The stew will have reduced and thickened to a lovely consistency.

While the stew is cooking you can prepare the remainder of the vegetables.

Bring a pot of water to the boil, season and then add the green beans. Simmer for a couple of minutes, then add the courgette slices. Simmer for another couple of minutes, drain immediately and rinse with cold water. This will prevent them from overcooking and ensure they keep their vibrant colour. Set the vegetables aside.

Now, if you’re serving this stew with the meatballs, now is the time (once the stew has had its simmering time) to add them to the stew. Below is the recipe for the meatballs – they need to be browned separately in a frying pan first. Drop the browned meatballs carefully into the stew, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Test one to make sure it is cooked through completely.

Remove the cooked meatballs to a warmed plate and cover with foil to keep warm while you finish the stew. If you’re making the stew on its own without the meatballs then you can skip straight to this next step.

Add the prepared beans and courgettes and a large bunch of fresh parsley leaves. Stir through carefully. Check the seasoning.

Serve the stew garnished with parsley and freshly grated Parmesan. A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil would be in no way a bad idea. If you’ve cooked the meatballs, serve them atop the stew, also garnished with parsley and Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

IMG_3831

Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 250g beef mince
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 garlic clove, grated over the mince
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 3 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 1 large egg
  • Olive oil

Method

Add all the ingredients except the olive oil to a large bowl and combine well – you really need to get in with your hands for this.

Once everything is combined, pluck out a spoonful of the mix and roll between your palms to make a meatball. You’ll see from the photos the size I made mine. This should give you 18-20 meatballs.

Have a frying pan hot and ready to go. Drizzle the prepared meatballs with a little olive oil and then add to the preheated frying pan. Cook for a few minutes before turning over and frying the other side. They don’t need to be completely cooked because they will finish cooking through in the stew. See above in the stew recipe.

Enjoy!

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14 Comments

  1. Laura says:

    So pleased to see your recipe – and easy for me to adapt to make it fully veggie too Tracey. And don’t get me started on Italy and carbs – two of the loves of my life. Enjoy your trip!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. annika says:

    Wonderful recipe! I so agree with you, vegetables play such an important role in any dish, flavour, colour, nutrients, texture as you have shown so well with this dish. Looking forward to your Italian adventure, I hope a few blogs posts will be dedicated to it!

    Liked by 1 person

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